Rain, Rain…..

Day 9. Sunday 6 Aug.

At least four big freight trains plus numerous BIG trucks through the night. D counted the trains: T says her earplugs kept disruption to a minimum. So why does she complain about D’s snoring?

A long, windy (as in strong breeze – the road was pretty straight) drive to Peterborough (formerly Peterburg) for a coffee at a delightful retro café in the old Capitol picture theatre. Not only was the venue atmospheric but it was set up as a sort of museum, or perhaps more accurately a collection of diverse memorabilia, ranging from the movies to military hardware. D was taken by a Ford Prefect, which reminded him of the family car back in Blair Athol days (he later remembered that it had been a Ford Consul, not a Prefect – a slightly larger car for a family of five! It was the Consul that D helpfully refueled using the water hose; surprisingly this was something that Alec took well, and there was no punishment.

Another long stretch to Hawker, with even stronger head winds. As we travelled ABC news was advising of gale conditions in Adelaide and the southern parts of SA. It wasn’t that bad, but it was certainly unpleasant outside. Hawker is another ‘cute’ town, trying hard to attract tourists, although there weren’t many around. Visited the Jeff Morgan panorama gallery, which was excellent, reminiscent of the one in Broken Hill we’d visited several years ago. Jeff has achieved his dream purpose, painting God’s creation within a building which had also been built with the hands of God. T was taken by the reference to Psalm 65, with the desert hills clothed in green…

Dropped into the Wilpena Pound Visitors Centre, to confound the attendant behind the desk as we tried to pay for park and camping fees.

‘Where are you camping?’

‘Don’t know – somewhere north of here’

‘Dingly Dell?’

‘Where’s that?’

‘North of here’

Is there anything else?’


‘What about these spots on the map?’

‘Yes, you can camp there’

‘Ah, good, we’ll choose one of those’

‘ok, that will be $25 total. Which one?’

‘We don’t know yet. We’re on our way to Blinman and we’ll just stop along the way’.

‘If you’re going through to Blinman, then you don’t need to pay, because you’re just passing through the park’

While this conversation was happening, T was filling out the registration form, and D handed over $25.

The conversation continued:

‘Well, we’re not sure because we thought we might go on a bit further’

‘Is this your first visit?’

‘No, we’ve been several times. Last time we camped at Parachilna Gorge’

A light bulb went off!

‘Parachilna Gorge. Yes. Stay there. Then you don’t have to pay anything.’

He then scrubbed out the registration form, handed back the $25, and smiled at a job well done, explaining that he was just acting as the agent for the National Parks service. In all that exchange he was unfailingly polite as he dealt with these obviously deranged visitors.

In the end we left without paying anything, in the understanding we’d stop at Parachilna, outside the park, as he’d recommended, so no user (as we were transiting) or camping fees.

As we passed Dingly Dell we thought we might as well check it out. A camper already there, who was travelling in from the north, informed us that he’d intended to camp at Parachilna but had changed his mind because of the trees and strong winds. Sounded sensible, so that’s where we parked too. Our fellow camper said he’d sort out the camping fee tomorrow. We’d love to be there to see that!

IMG_0772  IMG_0776

Day 10. Monday 7 August.

Our skill as drought breakers continues. A drip…drip…drip woke us both up during the night. A light but insistent derizzle had set in, and we (re)awoke in the morning to an overcast, heavy sky and the remnants of the drizzle. The decision was made to push on to Maree to start the Oodnadatta Track.

Coffee at Blinman, and the sun peeped through, but the wind was still pretty cool. As we passed through the Flinders, the conditions eased, and T took some shots of the gorge at Parachilna.


IMG_6222  IMG_6225

Posting this at Leigh Creek, where its clear and sunny. It’s unlikely we’ll have internet connection for the next few days. This is a sad, sad town: everything so closed up that we thought today must be a public holiday. But no, the explanation is that the mine has closed, and industry in Port Augusta has also closed, so there’s nothing here to warrant the shops.


Days 7 (continued) & 8

Day 7. Continued.

Having settled in, got ourselves up to date with admin and posted to the blog, we ventured out to Perry Sandhills. They were formed similarly to the lunettes at Mungo, and are a brilliant red due to the oxidation of the sand crystals: the deeper the red, the older the sand.

IMG_0499  IMG_0495

We came across the God Tree – a eucalypt whose trunk is buried in the sand dune – estimated to be 4-5 metres deep – so that you can stand in its canopy at ground level.


Also visited the junction of the Darling and the Murray – a huge, tranquil body of water, with the 2 rivers meeting in a V formation.


Tranquil does not describe the evening! D started to cook dinner outside and a gale blew in, so that he needed three hands to hold down the umbrella, stop utensils from blowing off the bench, and turn the steaks. He’s a dexterous kind of guy. The meal was worth it.

Day 8. Saturday 5 Aug.

The weather continued to disturb overnight, as did the party-goers who arrived very late, but presumably the conditions helped to keep their visit short but noisy.

Breakfast at a café next to the caravan park called Artback. Great food, but no smashed avo (and the servings were enormous) so civilization hasn’t spread this far yet: the outback is still unspoiled.

On the road to Broken Hill, just long kilometres of low saltbush and occasional bushes and feral goats. Stopped in BH for T to get that wool needle and there we caught sight of our next rig – just right to get anyone out of trouble!


BH was as we remembered, but we passed through, wanting to get a bit further down the road.


Pulled over about 65kms into SA, beside the railway line and outside a pub called the Olary. We’ll spend the night (T reminds us that the rest stops along the Stuart Hwy would never be repeated…and here we are!!!!!!) D had a beer at the pub – a can of West End. The publican advised that there would be no meals offered tonight because he’d spent all day collecting wood for the fire and hadn’t prepared anything.


T is not going to offer him a serving of our chorizo/coriander stew. It’s now 1930 and we’ve lost count of the number of passing trucks, but there have been 3 trains. Both these big rigs remind us of the importance of the freight industry in a vast continent.

Mungo National Park – an enforced stay

Day 4. Tuesday 1 August (Horses’ Birthday)

Perfect sunrise through the river mist.


‘Let’s do coffee at Euston and then go north to Mungo,’ said T, so that’s what we did.

The lower Murrumbidgee becomes treed again and fields of olives, almonds and vines announce the arrival in Sunraysia. At Euston, (a whistle-stop) town with just a takeaway café, huge club/resort and new colourbond-roof housing estates (but RV friendly, with a parking area set aside that we didn’t check out), we took the coffee break, then headed up the dirt road toward Mungo. A newly- established almond plantation provided the morning colour scheme…pink soil against a blue sky with row upon row of trees.


Soon it was corrugation and saltbush…the occasional sheep, a few emus and NOONE else on it! But this has to be the ideal season! – thinks T. Arrive at Mungo National Park expecting campsites to be already taken by those who get on the road super-early… NOONE!

The Visitor Centre is open but deserted, so we register, pay and head for the remote campsite Belah. We had been at Mungo some 20+ years ago and had heard that the park was now fairly controlled in order to preserve the fragile environment. What a pleasant surprise! Yes, there are now boardwalks and you can’t tramp all over the Walls of China, but this is a plus and today we had it all to ourselves.

IMG_0084    IMG_0085IMG_0088

Set up at Belah (all alone) and dusk descends as the varied birdlife whistles, sings, carols and caws the end of the day.

Day 5. Wednesday 2 Aug

Birdsong wakes us and with a soft morning light it’s another fine day. The Mallee Ringneck parrot, emus, Red Wattlebirds keep us amused, darting in and out of the Rosewoods.

Continuing on the Mungo Lake circuit we take in the natural environment of Belah, Rosewood, Bluebush, porcupine grass, Wilga, Leafless Cherry (parasite), emus, kangaroos ( black, grey and red) and the man-made features of a feral goat trap and Vigars Well which was full of emus as we arrived, but was vacated promptly. The well is a permanent soak and was a horse and dray watering point, just ahead of the sand dunes (which could have been coastal) with their fine white grains. This is the back (eastern side) of the Mungo lunette.


Next were the Zanci Homestead ruins, including a white cypress dugout to shelter from searing heat, Zanci Woolshed, then the Mungo Woolshed, beautifully preserved examples of drop log construction. Learning of the pastoral history of this area presents a very different perspective from our learning when we visited two decades ago. Back then, the focus was on the Indigenous features of this area, with Mungo Man and Mungo Woman, the Willandra Lakes system and the 3 Aboriginal groups who still meet here. Mungo became a sheep farm in the 1870s and wool was harvested in a harsh land which has no running water. Now under NPWS management and with World Heritage status, the story of Mungo is more comprehensive, presenting the bigger picture of the dramatic social, cultural and environmental change that came with pastoral pursuits on the back blocks acquired by European settlers between the Darling and Lachlan Rivers. The Willandra Lakes, full in the last Ice Age, human footprints from

20, 000 years ago fossilized in the claypan, Mungo Man and Mungo Woman from 40,000 plus years ago, 100 years of sheep and pastoralists, and now the National Park. The World Heritage status is now understandable.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_122f8  UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_122faUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_122fb   UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_12300

Tonight we are in Main Camp and there are at least 6 other camping groups. Positively crowded! And rain threatens.

Day 6. Thursday 3 Aug.

The threat materialized – rain on and off all night. The one encouraging thing is that we have maintained our record as drought busters! At about 11 am, a ranger said that 10 mm had already fallen, and a drizzle continues. Roads are all closed so we’re here for at least another night.

A slow day – drizzle on and off. D walked to the Visitors Centre to check road conditions and weather. The park was closed, according to the lone Ranger, notwithstanding all the signs said ‘Open’. The roads in and out were closed, he was told, although there were no signs indicating that. Common sense said that they shouldn’t be used: dangerous and damaging. The penalty for being on/getting stuck/damaging a closed road is c.$1800 per wheel!!!!!!!

So T spent the day productively knitting her new sweater, while D spent most of the day checking his battery gauges, as the generator gurgled away outside in its little sun shelter.


There was a group of nine campers close by, and twin sisters of about our age were avid (fanatical?) crocheters. T was able to borrow a precious sewing needle from one to complete the first stage of her project, and we were invited to share their fire that evening, rain permitting.


And the rain did permit, so we spent a very enjoyable and humorous evening with this group of friends from Bendigo, who had travelled often together. One of the group was the brother of the twins, but he had left his wife in Bendigo, after an eight week holiday, to work while he joined this trek! They were headed to Tibooburra to visit an old nursing friend of the twins, who was now the bush nurse in charge there. They were expected for a birthday dinner on Monday night…so desperate to get out of Mungo on Friday. More rain forecast.

Day 7. Friday 4 Aug.

More light rain overnight, but in just a couple of patches – our fingers were crossed! Some sunlight broke through, and the clouds scudded across quickly yo provide at least some drying. D checked the road in front of the campsite and although still a bit wet seemed suitable. The Bendigo group were on their way, as was another couple further on, so the consensus seemed to be to go. On the way out we were told that a school group that had been staying in the old shearers’ huts was intending to head back to Mildura in their bus, so it seemed that all was a go. We were planning to take the shortest possible dirt road – about 50 km towards Pooncarie on the Top Hut Road, then turn left to Wentworth once we hit the bitumen.

Well, the road was suitable, but only just! Lots of boggy sections, but not deep, but enough to occasionally give the rig a bit of sideways slide, which is disconcerting. Parts were excellent, so we made fairly good time – the 50 km took just under two hours. When we reached the bitumen we looked back to see the sign: ‘Road Closed’!

So on to Wentworth, where we are staying the night. Pajero and Kimberley caked in red mud, despite a bit of a clearing by stick en route. Rain is forecast, so perhaps that will do the job on the way to Broken Hill tomorrow.